Alumnus of the year 2011

Dlair Kadhem

Dlair was presented with the award in recognition of his achievements and significant contribution to entrepreneurship and e-commerce since leaving Essex. Dlair immigrated to the United Kingdom in 1996 having fled war-torn Iraq and graduated from the University of Essex in 2005 with a degree from the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.

Having spent the early part of his career working in web design, online marketing and software development, Dlair founded his own business in 2006 aimed at bringing people and technology together through innovation and open source technology. Some of his clients include the BBC, NHS and Red Bee Media. With a keen interest in the evolution of technology, Dlair is now focused on the rapid innovation taking place in the world of handheld devices and how they affect everyday lives.

Orations and responses

Oration

Oration by Dr Anthony Vickers, School of Computer Science & Electronic Engineering

Chancellor, on behalf of the University of Essex the Alumnus of the Year Award is presented to Dlair Kadhem. 

Each year we recognise and honour the achievements of one Alumnus whose successes have affected others positively and hence represent an exemplary role model of what our present year group of graduates, gathered here today, might seek to accomplish in the years to come. This year we have chosen someone who although relatively still early in his career has made a significant contribution to Business.Dlair Kadhem and his family immigrated to the United Kingdom in 1996 having fled war-torn Iraq. Dlair has always had a fascination for creativity and technology. He first encountered computers in 1997 at the age of 13. In the following year he launched his first website, using free web space provided by Freeserve. This fascination with technology and in particular web technology led Dlair to choose to undertake a degree in Computer Science and Electronic Engineering. He arrived at the Departments of Electronic Systems and Engineering in October 2002 to study for a BEng degree in Computer Games and Internet Technology, at that time one of the first of its kind in the United Kingdom. While still studying at Essex, Dlair’s ability to peer into the future as well as an entrepreneurial spirit became evident. He created friendscene.com, a social networking site, which connects people through networks of friends which interlink together to create a huge community. I would say the precursor of Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace.

After graduating in 2005 Dlair moved into Web Design, Online Marketing and Software development. Having gained valuable industrial experience Dlair founded his own company called I Scene in 2006 with a clear vision of bringing people and technology together through innovation and open source technology. As the Internet evolved so did the business direction. The company currently specialises as a consultancy, aiding marketing and social media through various organisations, government, commercial and NGOs using open software and applications. Thanks to his business acumen, understanding of the market and client base as well as his ability to see ahead Dlair has managed to build a strong business in a very short period of time.

His client list is impressive and includes amongst others the BBC, Proctor and Gamble, Carphone Warehouse, Harrods and the NHS. In short, Dlair Kadhem is an excellent role model for graduates of Science and Engineering. He has achieved a great level of success in a very short period of time. He has demonstrated a real business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit that in no doubt will bring him many more successes in the future. The school of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering is very proud that Dlair Kadhem has been selected to receive the Alumnus of the Year Award. Interestingly, Dlair missed his own graduation ceremony in 2005 as he went traveling to East Asia. So this is an opportunity for him to experience the joy of a graduation ceremony. Chancellor, I present to you Dlair Kadhem.

Response

Response by Dlair Kadhem

Thank you Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and the University of Essex for the wonderful honour which you have bestowed upon me. I am extremely humbled and flattered to be standing here before you. I want to thank Dr Anthony Vickers for the generous oration. I want to thank my family for being here. And finally I want to thank my fellow graduates and congratulate you for your wonderful achievements today from the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, from the Centre of Computation Finance and Economic Agents, from the International Academy and from the Department of Language and Linguistics, and Learning and Development.

I am absolutely speechless, that is why I prepared this speech. When you finish university people will tell you 'The world is your oyster. Just do not forget to touch in and touch out. Otherwise it’s one heck of an expensive journey.' When I finished university and after countless job interviews I finally found a job and life is good. But was I happy? No. I started formulating ideas of running my own business and doing something that will make me happy.

Having a good idea and implementing it gives one a sense of accomplishment. One feels proud and astonished at how a small idea that originated whilst having breakfast on a rainy day could turn into a successful business. I remember discussing my ideas with the people around me. I remember sharing my ideas with family and friends, and warning me of being too young to set up my own business. And that my ideas are dangerous, risky and could waste valuable time. But life is all about breaking away from conventions. If you have the drive and ambition, and conviction of carrying something through, then your rewards are plentiful.

Oscar Wilde once said "If an idea is not dangerous it’s unworthy of being called an idea at all." Starting a business requires manageable responsibilities. One needs to be innovative, inquisitive and creative, and ethical. But you also need an element of luck. Many starter businesses go through some sort of pivot, a change in direction when the first idea is not successful. For example, Paypal was for transferring money between Palm pilots. Twitter was just a group SMS website and YouTube was a video dating website. And the list goes on. Of course there are notable exceptions such as Amazon, EBay and Facebook which brings up an important distinction between pivot and merely expanding a core business.

For example, Amazon going from selling only books to other categories and Facebook going from only college students to upper registration. After starting I scene I was immediately greeted by the biggest recession of my lifetime. Having experienced the economic downturn of such an accelerated rate I had to be flexible and to be able to change. I am a firm believer that when one door closes another door opens. So I attempted the expansion. When that failed I pivoted to business.

Finally I would like to say that in life things do not come easy. You have to work extremely hard to achieve a goal. I come from a very humble background and to be recognised for my achievements by the university is both encouraging and inspiring. Coming from Iraq I want to say that I have seen it all - the good and the bad, the injustice and the torture. I have no doubt that this hardship shaped me and my outlook on life, and the way I conduct myself both as an individual as well as a businessman. As Albert Einstein once said "Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value." Thank you for your time and I wish you the best of luck in your future career.